Strategy and Race Gods get Johnson first victory at Michigan

(Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)

The Race Gods felt whimsical and sent the six-time champion to an unfamiliar place: victory lane at Michigan International Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson cruised to the win in the Irish Hills after crew chief Chad Knaus played the fuel strategy game. In the closing laps of the event, the No. 48 was nestled back in the field. The catch? Everyone ahead of them had to pit, and the Hendrick Motorsports crew were sitting pretty. The dominos fell, and the lead became Johnson’s. Nobody could catch him, and the checkered flag waved for him.

The win is his third of the season and his first at the track. There’s no doubt he is locked into The Chase and is ready to rock after not getting up to speed at the beginning of 2014. This angered Johnson, and he was disgusted by the media’s reports. He silenced them the only way he knew how: by winning.

As he celebrated with his family, it became apparent that the entire race was a thrilling venture. It took two cautions in the beginning for the drivers to figure out what they were doing; the first was a miscue by Brian Vickers, who took Travis Kvapil along, and then Kyle Larson got squirrelly and threw off Kasey Kahne as well. Though the first two drivers’ machines were heavily damaged, Larson and Kahne both used strategy to rebound. It was a glorious sight for the No. 5 bunch, who have struggled to move in the positive direction. They claimed a fifth-place finish, while Larson grabbed eighth.

Once again, Kevin Harvick made a strong showing, the runner-up who tried to chase down Johnson. If anyone is championship-ready, it’s he and crew chief Rodney Childers.

It was an eventful day, from the hectic start to the powerful racing seen throughout the field. The familiar face of Jimmie Johnson landed in strange territory: a winner’s circle he’s never visited. That all changed Sunday afternoon, and no one is talking about a “slump” anymore.

Point Standings after the Quicken Loans 400 (asterisks indicates number of wins)

1. Jeff Gordon (–)*
2. Jimmie Johnson (-15)***
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-23)**
4. Matt Kenseth (-24)
5. Brad Keselowski (-47)*
6. Carl Edwards (-75)*
7. Joey Logano (-83)**
8. Kyle Larson (-83)
9. Kevin Harvick (-90)**
10. Kyle Busch (-93)*
11. Ryan Newman (-97)
12. Denny Hamlin (-102)
13. Paul Menard (-117)
14. Clint Bowyer (-120)
15. Greg Biffle (-128)
16. Tony Stewart (-135)

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One thought on “Strategy and Race Gods get Johnson first victory at Michigan”

  1. If you wish to call NASCAR a god, then I guess the race gods helped Johnson. NASCAR allows Hendrick to develop the rules they are running under this year. NASCAR allows Hendrick to run 8 teams, 4 under HMS and 4 under Stewart Hendrick Racing. NASCAR allows other teams to help the HMS teams without penalties after they said after Richmond that would not be tolerated, either by teammates or by other teams. And yet these are stories you won’t print or mention because if they did you’d lose your credentials.

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